Edward Pattinson is celebrating his 70th birthday this year, but the actor is far from being a baby boomer. To put it mildly, Pattinson defied conventional wisdom by refusing to grow up. For decades, the English actor has starred in some of Hollywood’s most iconic films, usually playing older versions of our favorite characters. Despite his advanced years, Pattinson remains committed to his craft. Here’s a closer look at how and why Edward Pattinson has spent his whole life acting.

Early Life and Career

Pattinson was born in London’s Edgware neighborhood on January 26, 1944. He is the second of three children born to Marion (nee Dyson) and Leslie Pattinson. His father was an insurance broker who had a passion for the theater, and encouraged his children’s interest in acting. Despite his father’s wishes, the future actor refused to pursue a career in insurance, instead deciding to study law at the University of London. The rebellious spirit of a young Edward Pattinson was evident even as a child: he was constantly scolding his parents for wanting him to obey the “rules” of society, and follow the “wedding and family” script.

In 1965, Pattinson decided to forgo his studies, and dropped out of college. He eventually moved to New York City, where he became a naturalized United States citizen in 1971. It was in New York that he began his acting career, appearing in various productions at the prestigious Atlantic Theater Company. From there, he moved to Los Angeles, where he quickly established himself as a leading man. Early in his career, Pattinson played Romeo to Elizabeth Taylor’s Juliet in the 1976 epic film, Romeo and Juliet. Taylor’s performance in the film served as a major turning point in her life. After viewing the film, the legendary actress dedicated herself to improving her singing voice, and recorded one of the most critically acclaimed albums of all time, Witness. She continued to act and sing, becoming one of the most celebrated performers of all time.

Becoming Edward Pattinson

In the early 1980s, Pattinson found himself in the middle of a career slump. He appeared in small roles in films like Brian De Palma’s Scarface The Musical and Alan Parker’s Fame, neither of which achieved widespread critical or commercial success. This was followed by a leading role in the comedy The Lords of Flatbush, in which he played a New York City mobster. It was at this point that Pattinson decided to change his name to “Edward Pattinson.” The name change was in honor of the poet and playwright, Edward Gibbon, whose most influential work, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, is the title of the book that inspired the film of the same name. Edward Pattinson cited the author’s “sentiment and acuity” as reasons for choosing to be named after him.

In 1986, Pattinson landed the lead role of Robert Dupeux in the Oscar-winning mini-series, Loved One. The show was set in the trenches of World War I, and dealt with the issues of prejudice and censorship that were so prominent in the early 20th century. The role brought Pattinson international acclaim, and he reprised the role in the 1989 sequel, Loved Two. During this time, he also made a name for himself in character roles, often portraying British aristocrats and upper-class men. One of the most notable of these was his portrayal of the dashing World War I British soldier, Monty Wooley in the 1996 film, Pride and Prejudice. Besides his movie and TV roles, Pattinson dabbled in theater as well, making a name for himself on the London stage. He also voiced the title character in the 2011 animated comedy, Flushed Away.

Hollywood Comeback

In recent years, Pattinson has returned to the big-studio circuit, with high-profile supporting roles in films like the 2012 remake of Annie; the superhero movie, The Avengers; and the upcoming Ocean’s 13. He has also lent his voice to various video games, including Assassin’s Creed II, Batman: Arkham City, and Sleeping Dogs.

Pattinson has continued to amaze audiences with his versatility and range. He has never really hidden his love for the silver screen, and has frequently cited film as his all-time favorite medium. When he turns 70 this year, it will have been 50 years since he first graced the big screen with his iconic English accents and charm. He continues to delight moviegoers with his timeless combination of poise and swagger.